Palin and Begich trying to out-stupid each other in Alaska

In 2020, Alaskan voters approved a ballot initiative that switched Alaska’s primary system to a non-partisan blanket primary. Now, for all statewide races, the top-four candidates progress to a general election conducted with ranked-choice voting.

In the race for Alaska’s at-large House seat, two Republicans are squaring off against incumbent Mary Peltola: Sarah Palin, former governor and vice-presidential candidate; and Nick Begich III, the scion of Alaska’s foremost political dynasty. Begich’s grandfather held the seat until his disappearance in 1972. Don Young won the seat in a special election that year and occupied the position until his death in March. Peltola won the subsequent special election, becoming the first Democrat in 49 years to represent Alaska in the “People’s House.”

Ranked-choice voting isn’t what’s preventing Republicans from retaking the seat. Since the special election to replace Young, Palin and Begich have been too busy pointing fingers at each other to consolidate and unite behind a single candidate. If either of them withdrew their candidacy, Libertarian Party candidate J. R. Myers would be placed on the ballot in their stead, but Myers only received 531 votes statewide. Fellow libertarian Chris Bye, who already made it to the top four, is also a nonfactor. So a Palin or Begich exit would effectively become a matchup between the remaining Republican and Peltola, rather than a splitting conservative votes that woud hand the Democrats the seat. Alas, this would require either Palin or Begich to put aside their pride for the sake of the party’s electorate prospects. Unfortunately, selflessness is a quality neither candidate possesses.

Nor is there an obvious choice for who should drop out. Begich would have won the seat had Palin not been in the race. But just when it seemed that Palin no longer politically acceptable for Alaskans, Begich said, “Hold my beer.” We’re now learning that he co-owns and has held multiple leadership positions at Earthpulse Press, Inc., a publishing house run by his father that creates and promotes ludicrous conspiracy theories, including an idea that the University of Alaska Fairbanks operates a mass-mind-control device.

In the Senate election, absurdist pomposity also reigns supreme. Rather than backing Lisa Murkowski, the Republican incumbent with broad bipartisan appeal (also an Alaska dynastic scion), the Alaska GOP endorsed former Department of Administration commissioner Kelly Tshibaka. On Monday, the state party censured Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell for backing Murkowski. The state party also censured Murkowski for voting to convict former President Trump in his impeachment trial for his role in the January 6 riot at the Capitol and his attempted self-coup. To complicate matters further, Murkowski is now backing Peltola instead of Palin or Begich.

In short, things are getting pretty crazy up north, and the state Republican Party isn’t helping. Luckily, the only viable alternative to Murkowski is Tshibaka, so the GOP will be one step closer to regaining their Senate majority irrespective of who comes out on top. The House race is a different story. As Palin and Begich compete to out-stupid each other, Peltola could be coasting to another two years in office. This is the sort of thing that happens when cooler heads don’t prevail. 

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